MCC: Tuition hike on the horizon

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College students likely can expect a tuition increase next year if trustees approve a $3 per credit hour hike that was discussed Tuesday.

A $3 increase would bring the cost per credit hour from $99 to $102. MCC falls behind other community colleges in the state where the average cost per credit hour is $107.89, according to the Illinois Community College Board.

The college needs to look at tuition increases to bridge projected revenue gaps, MCC's Chief Financial Officer Bob Tenuta told the board. Future deficits could occur as a result of decreased funding from the state, property taxation limits and annual fund transfers for deferred maintenance, he said.

"Even with a tuition increase there's some gaps we'll have to plug," Tenuta said at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting.

A tuition increase and a $1.27 million error in the 2013 budget were not related, college officials said.

The miscalculation "certainly is not driving the conversation we're having tonight," Trustee Dennis Adams said.

During the 2013 budgeting process, an error overestimated the amount the college would collect in local property taxes by failing to factor in PTELL limitations.

A tuition increase would pad the 2014 budget to make up for the potential revenue shortages Tenuta projected.

A board report suggested a $5 increase in 2014, $6 in 2015, and a $7 increase in 2016, but most board members balked at that notion.

"I'm having a hard time with five [dollars]," Trustee Carol Larson said. "I don’t like a tuition hike, but I think we could live with three [dollars]," Larson said.

Student trustee Paola Rueda recently hosted a forum to gauge students' thoughts on a tuition hike. The majority indicated they would prefer smaller increases over time rather than a one-time, larger increase, she said.

Adams preferred a $5 increase, while Trustee Ron Parrish wanted none at all.

After much back and forth discussion, most trustees felt it was fair to opt for a $3 increase in 2014, and revisit the issue further down the line. The board will vote on any potential increases Feb. 28, at its regular board meeting.

"I wish we thought as much about the tax levy as we did this tuition increase," Adams said as the discussion was wrapping up. The college sought the maximum allowable under the tax cap, at a time when most taxing bodies opted for a flat or reduced property tax levy. Adams voted against asking for more from taxpayers.

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